In 2014, Google introduced Cardboard. It was literally just a cut-out piece of cardboard outfitted with Velcro strips, a pair of lenses and magnets. Insert your smartphone and voila, you got your very own VR View-Master. Though it seemed pretty silly at the time, Cardboard was Google's very first foray into virtual reality. Fast forward two years, and there's a whole cottage industry of Cardboard-compatible viewers -- not to mention lots of content made just for it. More than 5 million viewers have shipped and over 50 million Cardboard apps have been installed, as Google said at its keynote yesterday. Now, however, the company is ready for the next stage in its grand plan. Yesterday, Google announced Daydream, a platform that represents its most serious push yet into VR.
What we're seeing here is a very real attempt to democratize virtual reality in a way we have not seen before. It all started with Cardboard, of course, but Daydream is so much more. Google is essentially doing for VR what Android did for smartphones: It's offering a basic set of specifications that other companies can use. There's no need for them to come up with their own software or spend precious resources to come up with the right hardware design; all of that is already taken care of. Hell, Google's even making its own Daydream headset just like it did with its Nexus devices.
In contrast to Cardboard, which is just a low-cost viewer, the Daydream platform encompasses designs for an actual headset, with the build quality of a Samsung Gear VR or Oculus Rift. It has headstraps and looks like it's made to be worn hands-free. There are even designs for a Wiimote-like motion controller. While Samsung's Gear VR works only with Samsung's own phones, a Daydream headset would be compatible with many more handsets. The potential here is huge.